An Introduction to Mobile Marketing

Over the past year, I have written and talked about the convergence of digital signage and mobile technologies and explained how mobile devices can and do interact with digital signage.  In the past few weeks, I have also written extensively on recent trends in mobile marketing and how these trends represent a threat to digital signage.  This post is in response to those of you who have suggested that I explain mobile marketing, describe the various implementations of mobile marketing and highlight any overlap between mobile marketing and digital signage. 

Briefly defined, mobile marketing is the process of communicating marketing or promotional information to a mobile device for the purpose of informing or eliciting a response from the device user.  There are generally five common approaches to mobile marketing that are in use today:

  1. SMS/MMS – Marketers deliver information via a text or multimedia message in response to a text or multimedia message sent to a specific short code by a mobile device user.  The short codes are generally promoted in print or other media for the purpose of capturing a mobile device user’s attention.   The promotion of the short code is customarily accompanied by a “call to action” such as: “Text WINNER to 12345 to win a free ______.”   These short codes and the associated calls to action can be promoted on digital signage.  SMS/MMS marketing has seen tremendous growth in the past few years and represents an attractive medium of advertisers.
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  2. Mobile Web Site – Marketers create a web site that is optimized for presentation on a mobile phone.  The mobile web site delivers marketing and promotional information that is of importance to the marketer.  The mobile web site’s URL is then promoted in print or other media for the purpose of attracting visitors.  Digital signage can be used to promote these URL’s.  Mobile web sites have a long history but are losing relevance as SMS/MMS and other forms of marketing are growing in importance. 
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  3. Bluetooth Proximity Marketing – Marketers create a video or static message that is subsequently delivered via Bluetooth technology to a user’s mobile handset.  For the process to work, a Bluetooth transceiver is typically installed next to a poster or other graphic.  As a Bluetooth-enabled handset comes within close proximity of the transceiver, a connection is established between the handset and transceiver and the message is transmitted at the permission of the handset user.  The message is usually designed to augment the message conveyed on the poster or graphic.  In more recent implementations, Bluetooth transmitters have been installed near digital signage for the purpose of extending the messages shown on the signage.
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  4. 2D Bar Codes – Marketers affix a 2D bar code on print or other media for the purpose of enticing a mobile device user to “flash” the 2D bar code.  To “flash” a 2D code means to use a mobile device to take a picture of the 2D bar code and then decode it using a special reader application that is installed on the mobile device.  Once decoded, the reader application can display the message or take the action embedded in the 2D bar code.  These messages may consist of marketing or promotional information, URL’s, links to other applications, links to phone numbers, etc.   Digital signage can be used for displaying 2D bar codes.  2D bar codes are still a very niche form of marketing, but a number of companies are trying to increase its use through pilots and other similar projects.
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  5. Mobile Banners – Marketers place interactive banner graphics in mobile applications or mobile web sites for the purpose of enticing the mobile device user to click on the banner.  Once the banner is “clicked” the user is presented with marketing and promotional information.  Mobile banners do not tend to carry over into digital signage as the banners are not generally promoted.  Mobile Banners represent one of the fastest growing areas of mobile marketing, if not the fastest growing.

There are other obscure forms of mobile marketing such as NFC smart posters and photo-tagging, but the preceding five are the most commonly used in today’s mobile marketing environment.    Implementations 1 – 4 can be used in conjunction with digital signage, and these technologies tend to complement one another very well.  Mobile marketing implementation #5 however can operate very much independent of digital signage and since Mobile Banners are one of the fastest growing forms of mobile advertising, it ultimately represents competition for marketing dollars that could be spent on digital signage.  For more information on this topic see my recent articles listed in this blog.

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